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Brick by Brick

By Kirsten Valle

Posted: Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

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Photo by Critsey Rowe

Kirsten Valle is a business reporter for the Observer. She can be reached at kvalle@charlotteobserver.com.

Read more "Getting to 'I do.'"

As exciting as the planning has been, and as fun as itís been to daydream about the wedding day, Iíve been thinking more lately about life after the vows, and how it will feel to be married.

One of our biggest changes will be moving in together. Luckily for us, the hardest part Ė actually finding the perfect home for our tastes and budget Ė was taken care of early.

Reese bought a pre-construction condo in a tree-lined part of town we love almost two years ago, before we were engaged and before developers had even broken ground on the project. I remember going with him to the sales center to study the model of the building and the samples of cabinets and furniture and tile and carpet. It didnít quite feel real, the fact that this home would one day be his Ė and maybe mine Ė but it was fun.

Recently, as the structure has risen and the workers have laid bricks and installed the tall windows, itís felt more real than ever. I find myself driving home from work a different way some evenings, just to pass the project and check its progress. One recent Saturday Reese and I took our first tour, trudging across the construction site in boots and hardhats. We climbed a staircase to the third floor and walked down a hallway, still dusty and draped in plastic and building materials. The anticipation was killing me. Then, there it was: unit 314.

We stepped inside. The walls were unpainted and the floor was unfinished. A curtain of plastic shrouded the kitchen cabinets and a smoke detector jolted us occasionally with its loud low-battery warning. But it was beautiful. We ran our hands over the smooth granite countertops and wandered through the kitchen, imagining making dinner there on a cold night after work. We peeked at the small patio, thinking about summer mornings when weíd open it to let the sunshine in. We peered out a bedroom window, checking out a church steeple in the distance and the autumn-gold treetops below.

Part of the visit was practical: We measured the rooms to get a better idea of how our furniture would fit, and we took pictures to better remember the layout. But beyond that, we dreamed. We lingered, circling the living room, opening and closing closet doors, and then reluctantly edged back down the hallway and out into the world.

Itís a small condo Ė one bedroom and not much bigger than the apartments we have now. But the unit is airy, with tall ceilings and bright windows, and the location is perfect, in our favorite part of Charlotte and across the street from a few of our favorite restaurants.

Reese will move in when the unit is finished in a few months, and Iíll follow in July. It will be a big step Ė after all, Iíve lived with female roommates for much of my adult life. Iíll always treasure my time with them, rushing between rooms to borrow clothes and share advice, or spending hours on the couch with a glass of wine and the best (and worst) reality TV.

Sometimes, I imagine, I might even long for those days, in the midst of a marital argument about laundry or dishes. But Iím looking forward to a new, settled living situation, to moving in with my best friend and knowing itís a permanent arrangement.

I like to think that unfinished condo building mirrors our lives right now: shaping up beautifully, but still in transition. Iím getting antsy to be married and start that new life, but at the same time, Iím enjoying the wait. Iím valuing time with my roommate and other girlfriends a little more. Each bit of progress Ė on the condo and on our wedding plans Ė feels monumental, and each day is one day closer.

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